Application of ion trap-MS with H/D exchange and QqTOF-MS in the identification of microbial degradates of trimethoprim in nitrifying activated sludge.


In this work, the identification of two microbial degradation products of the antimicrobial trimethoprim (290 Da) is described. The structural elucidation of the metabolites, which were produced by nitrifying activated sludge bacteria in a small-scale laboratory batch reactor, was accomplished by electrospray ionization-ion trap mass spectrometry conducting consecutive fragmentation steps (MS(n)) combined with H/D-exchange experiments. Although one metabolite corresponded to alpha-hydroxytrimethoprim (306 Da), oxidation of the aromatic ring within the diaminopyrimidine substructure was determined for the second degradate (324 Da). Accurate mass measurements of the two metabolites were provided by a hybrid quadrupole time-of-flight-mass spectrometer operated in MS/MS mode. With absolute mass errors of <5 mDa, it allowed us to confirm the proposed elemental composition for the protonated precursor ions as well as for a series of fragment ions that were previously identified by ion trap mass spectrometry. The study emphasized the potential of nitrifying activated sludge bacteria for breaking down an environmentally relevant pharmaceutical that is otherwise poorly degradable by a bacterial community encountered in conventional activated sludge.